Signs of Opiate Abuse
Explaining Opiate Drugs
Opiate drugs are a group of substances that are either derived from the opium poppy plant or created in a laboratory setting to mimic the effects of the opium poppy. There are three types of opiate drugs, including natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic. Natural opiates, such as codeine and morphine, come directly from the opium poppy.
Semi-synthetic opiates have a similar chemical makeup to natural opiates but are made in a laboratory. Heroin is an illicit semi-synthetic opiate and oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opiate that is a prescription painkiller. Synthetic opiates are completely man made substances that feature the effects of natural opiates. Some common examples include methadone and fentanyl which are used to treat pain in a medical setting.
The human body produces opioids in small amounts; they bind to opioid receptors in the brain to help manage pain, reduce stress, and lower respiration. When a person takes opiate drugs, the opioids bind to the opioid receptors, resulting in feelings of pleasure and pain relief. When opiate drugs are used as prescribed, they can help people cope with severe or chronic pain. In fact, opiates are some of the most effective forms of pain management. However, opiates carry a high potential for abuse, because these substances offer such strong pain relief and can induce feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
Both prescription and illicit opiates carry the potential for abuse. However, illegal opiates tend to be significantly more potent. There are several ways that people take opiate drugs when they abuse these substances, and in many cases, the method of administration is changed. For example, opiates that come in pill form are often ground into powder and then smoked, snorted, or combined with water for injection. Changing the route of administration increases how fast the body absorbs the substance which can result in a high or a rush of powerful, positive sensations. Even if someone uses prescription opiate drugs as prescribed, there is still the potential for abuse and addiction.
With repeated use of opiates, a person can experience dependence in four to six weeks. Dependence means that a person’s body has come to rely on the substance to function normally, and opiate withdrawal symptoms appear if they try to reduce or stop their opiate use. People who abuse opiates may also notice that they have increased tolerance if they use opiates for an extended period of time. Tolerance means that the person needs to take more of the substance over time in order to achieve the same effect. Together, dependence and tolerance form the building blocks of addiction.
No one wants to see their loved one spiral into the throes of opiate abuse and addiction, but many individuals work hard to keep their drug abuse a secret. However, being able to recognize the signs of an opiate addict can enable you to help someone who is struggling with an addiction to opiates. The drug treatment specialists at Luminance Recovery have compiled information about how to identify the signs and symptoms of opiate abuse.
Signs of Opiate Drug Abuse
Sometimes, it is easy to identify substance abuse symptoms and signs, but the signs are not always as clear. When a person abuses opiates, their body eventually develops a tolerance to the substance. As a result, the person using the drug may not ever appear impaired or intoxicated. While a drug test is the most accurate way to determine if a person is abusing drugs, there are warning signs of prescription drug addiction. Three of the most common signs of opiate abuse are small pupils, nodding off, and withdrawal symptoms.
When pupils are small, it can be a sign that someone is abusing opiates. Under normal circumstances, a person’s pupils should become larger in the dark and smaller in the light. It is true that pupil size varies from person to person and decreases with age. However, if you notice that someone’s pupils are always very small, even when they are in dark or dimly lit rooms, they may abusing opiates. Pupil size is a warning sign of opiate abuse, because this symptom is present even in people who have developed a tolerance to opiate drugs.
Nodding off can also be a sign of opiate abuse. Because opiates are a central nervous system depressant, people who use these drugs may be less alert or appear to be sleepy. When someone takes an extremely high dose of opiates, they may fall unconscious and even stop breathing entirely.
In less severe cases, a person may temporarily fall asleep at a strange time. For example, the person may fall asleep during a conversation or while standing up. However, keep in mind that some people may develop a tolerance to the sedative effects of opiates. As a result, a person may still be abusing opiates even if they are not nodding off at strange times.
Withdrawal symptoms are a clear sign that someone is abusing opiates. Withdrawal occurs when a person stops or reduces their use of a substance that their body has become dependent on. Although withdrawal symptoms appear when someone is voluntarily undergoing medical detox as part of treatment for addiction, people also experience withdrawal symptoms if they run out of their drug of choice and can’t immediately get more of the substance. Some of the symptoms of opiate withdrawal include cramping, diarrhea, goosebumps, nausea, sweating, and vomiting.
In addition to these signs of opiate abuse, there are other potential signs and symptoms of opiate addiction that you should be aware of. These symptoms fall into different categories, including psychological, physical, and behavioral.
Some of the psychological symptoms of opiate abuse include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, psychosis, irritability, reduced motivation, euphoria, and enhanced self-esteem and confidence. A person may experience some or all of these symptoms. While depression or anxiety alone isn’t enough to suggest opiate abuse, it may be a warning sign if other signs and symptoms of abuse are present.
There are many physical signs of opiate abuse. A person may experience enhanced alertness, sensitivity to sensory input, increased energy, heightened sexual arousal, difficulty sleeping, and decreased appetite. The individual may also have an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, and a runny nose.
When someone abuses drugs such as opiates, they begin to make changes in their behavior and their life. People who use opiates spend a great deal of time obtaining, using, and recovering from opiate use. As a result, the person may abandon their responsibilities like work, school, and family duties. They may stop participating in hobbies and other activities they once enjoyed.
They may even begin to neglect their hygiene and grooming. If you know that someone has a prescription for opiates, they may be abusing the drug if they are using the prescription longer or at a higher dose than was prescribed or intended. They may also have a problem if they have been unsuccessful at decreasing their opiate use.
You may notice other signs of opiate abuse. Some people might take prescription opiates that belong to other people or steal money for these drugs. If you notice that money or prescription opiates are missing from home, this is a huge red flag that someone is abusing opiate drugs, and you should take immediate action to get help for that person.
Another red flag of opiate abuse is finding drug paraphernalia or remnants of drugs. For example, heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted. As a result, you might find syringes, small glass or metal pipes, dirty spoons, lighters, belts, or rubber tubing. You might also find powdery or crumbly remnants of heroin that range from off-white to dark brown in color. If the person is using tar heroin, the substance will be black and sticky.
These signs and symptoms are meant to serve as a guide to identify opiate abuse. You should not assume that someone is struggling with opiate abuse if they have no other symptoms than depression or high blood pressure. It is important to consider the entire picture. However, if you find that someone you love exhibits several of these symptoms, they may be struggling with an opiate addiction, and you should reach out to offer your support in helping them get sober.
Getting Loved Ones Help for Opiate Addiction
If your loved one has a heroin or painkiller addiction, they need professional treatment. The first step is planning an intervention for your loved one. An intervention is a time to express your concern and encourage them to get the help they need. It is not a time to criticize or demonize the person for their drug addiction.
By explaining how their addiction has impacted others and suggesting treatment, you may inspire your loved one to seek help at a drug rehab center. Regardless of the outcome of the intervention, you need to set boundaries and stick to them. You should be supportive of your loved one, but you don’t want to enable them. You also want to make sure that you are protecting yourself and your interests.
If your loved one agrees to attend a rehab program, the next step is deciding whether it should be inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient drug rehab programs are often recommended for people who have more intensive or long-term addictions.
Inpatient treatment can also be helpful if the person’s home environment is not supportive or is filled with too many distractions and temptations. However, in the right situation, outpatient programs can be a good fit for people who want to overcome an addiction to heroin or painkillers. Doing your research is the best way to help your loved one find a program that’s a good fit for them.
Regardless of whether the treatment program is inpatient or outpatient, it should include certain components. First, the program should include opiate detox. During this time, the person will experience withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox and monitoring can help the person manage their withdrawal symptoms to successfully complete detox and move onto the next step of treatment.
Psychological counseling and support are the next components of the treatment process for an opiate addict. In counseling, your loved one will work with a mental health professional to discover the root causes of their opiate addiction and learn new life skills and coping strategies that can take the place of addiction.
Counseling can be done on an individual basis, in a group with other people in recovery, or with family members. Many people in treatment for opiate addiction find that attending all forms of counseling are helpful for recovery. Keep in mind that counseling and support should not end when the person leaves treatment. Both should be ongoing to help your loved one maintain their sobriety in the long term.
Although prescription drug abuse is often secretive, you can still identify the signs. By identifying the warning signs of addiction, you can prevent an overdose and save your loved one’s life by helping them get the treatment they desperately need to get sober.
Luminance Recovery is committed to providing opiate detox and treatment that is as comfortable and safe as possible. Our team offers holistic care that is tailored to each client’s needs. At our treatment center, we help clients detox from opiates through providing comprehensive care and medical monitoring. After detox, we help clients understand the root causes of their addiction utilizing many different effective therapies.
If you or someone you love is abusing opiates, the team at Luminance Recovery can help. Please contact us today to learn about our holistic approach to opiate addiction treatment.
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